This past June was the 50th anniversary of the seminal Grateful Dead album Workingsman’s Dead. This was my introduction to the Dead. My brother and I had spent the summer at a bungalow colony up in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York so when we got back to the city we bought a bunch of records that had come out during the summer. I don’t remember how exactly my brother wound up buying Workingman’s Dead but in hindsight it turned out to be a pivotal moment in both our lives. The first song of side one: Uncle John’s Band (remember when there was actual sides to records? Remember records? I’m so old). The moment that the Dead sang the chorus acapella I was hooked.
Many Deadheads, myself included, tend to be a little dismissive of the Dead’s studio albums. After all, the band was known for their live performances and even the Dead were not particularly thrilled with the studio but with Workingman’s Dead (and it’s companion piece, American Beauty) the Dead crafted one of the truly great albums of the Seventies. This was the beginning of what I (and many others) consider to be the Dead’s most creative periods with the songs being written by Garcia and Hunter at this time providing the foundation of their repertoire for the rest of their long career.
In celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary there is a new expanded edition of Workingman’s Dead (this seems to be the new standard practice for classic rock albums) The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast, the official Grateful Dead podcast, has launched a series that focuses on Workingsman’s Dead with a deep dive into each song on the album along with podcasts that talk about Jerry Garcia’s relationship to folk music and the band’s relationship to Stanley Owsley, their early audio engineer and recreational chemist. I found these podcasts fascinating with interesting insights into the origins of these songs and the creative process that brought them into existence.
The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast
Also, as of this writing, the second season of The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast has started in which they start their deep dive into American Beauty. Enjoy